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National cardiac screening guidelines for sports participants

Updated: Jun 15, 2019

I was part of the writing group for these national guidelines that were published last year in Echo Research and Practice (ERP). The guideline is a joint position statement between the British Society of Echocardiography and the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young.

It describes causes of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in sports participants and which cardiac conditions can be identified by screening. The publication highlights the importance of an understanding of cardiac adaptation to sports participation and how this can be influenced by characteristics such as age, gender, ethnicity and the type as well as duration of sports.

The guidelines bring together both structural and electrical cardiac changes. Structural changes can usually be identified by undertaking a heart ultrasound scan (this is called an 'echocardiogram' or 'echo'. Electrical changes can be identified by performing an heart trace called an 'electrocardiogram'.

The guidelines detail all of the important images to acquire during a heart ultrasound examination. Important features include measuring heart size, heart wall thickness, whether the heart arteries originate from a normal position and how the heart valves work. The guidelines present flow charts to help those undertaking screen which help to inform a clinical opinion as to whether any changes seen are due to physiological adaptation or a pathological process.

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